In a creative attempt to introduce comic books to the Egyptian market, came the idea of Autostrade. On Wednesday 20 July at Ahmed Shawky Museum, Autostrade saw its second and official launch, following a small (soft) launch event two weeks ago in Bikya Café. The writers and artists signed the comic books for attendees, while guests of the events enjoyed the music of Hany Mostafa and Simplexity band.
Autostrade was made following the Shonen Jump (a well known weekly anthology of manga comics) in Japan as an approach to making comics. Writers and artists collaborate on a comic book that includes various comic strips and the readers vote on their favourite comics, which then get spinned off into their own strip or get written off, allowing space for other artists to contribute.
Autostrade's cover was designed by well-known graffiti artist Ganzeer, a "guest cover" was designed by Ahmed Raafat, while many others artists contributed with their comics: Mohamed Reda, Mohamed Mazloum, Gehad El Sheikh, Salma Soliman, Adham El Khorazaty, Hatem Mamdouh, Aamina Tolba, Nermeen Shaltout, Ahmed Shaltout, Sara Abdel Azim, Tarek Abdel Kawy, Tarek Abou Omar, Mostafa El Horr, Mohamed Hamed, Marwan Imam, Mohamed Khaled, Magdy El Shafie, Yara Soliman, Omar Omar, Mohamed Wasfi and Ahmed Al Mojadidi.
By publishing a collection of comics through Autostrade every two months, Division publishing gives artists and writers a chance to put their work and ideas forward and allow readers to then choose what they want to keep reading by voting on their website.
“At Division publishing we are trying to provide an outlet for comic books to be seen and heard,” said Marwan Imam, a 23-year-old mechanical engineering and arts graduate, comic artist, and owner of Division Publishing House. Imam and his partner, Mohamed Reda, a 23-year-old mechanical engineering graduate, founded the publishing house in Feburary 2011.
“Comics are the common ground between literature and art, which combines visual and written material,” Imam says, “Autostrade is not for kids, in fact most of the stories here are discussing social and cultural issues, there are not many political issues yet, but I imagine there might be some in the future.”
“Marwan and Mohamed really brought us all together,” says Sara Abdelazim, a 23-year-old tech consultant and one of the contributors of Autostrade. “There was no limitation or censorship and they encouraged collaboration.” Abdelazim’s comic strip is about her cats' adventures, proving that cats are actually a lot of fun.
Adham El-Khorazati, a 26-year-old entrepreneur agrees with Abdelazim. His comic strip called Diety, and is about the ancient gods from across different times that sit together and have a conversation about whether or not they are gods. “I got criticised a number of times, but I’m not saying they are gods,” he says.
Perhaps one of the comics that really stands out was Ahmad Al Mojadadi’s Arabic comic 'Stories from a hospital'. Mojadadi is a 24-year-old medical intern at Kasr El Ainy hospital. He explains that he goes through a lot of interesting things, and with the bureaucracy in the hospital and all the things that happen he would like to shed light on them through his stand-up comedy and comic books. Mojaddadi is a writer, who collaborates with artist Ahmed Wasfi on this comic. “A lot of people don’t realise the amount of crazy things that happen in a government hospital,” he said, “There was very little exaggeration in the story.”
Autostrade is available in ALEF bookstores, Kryptonite Toys, Bikya Book Café and Kotob Khan Bookstore.